Transforming the Way Doctors Treat Brain Cancer, Right Here in Ottawa

By Cancer Foundation on June 15 / 2020

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A world-leading surgical technique is being used more and more often in Ottawa, thanks to consistent support from local donors. 

Thanks to donations from our community, the way we treat brain cancer here in Ottawa is changing: top Ottawa neurosurgeon Dr. John Sinclair now has consistent enough funding to use the drug 5-Aminolevulinic Acid (5-ALA) more often in local brain surgeries. When taken before Fluorescence Guided Surgery (FGS), 5-ALA binds to brain cancer cells, and illuminates them under the light of a specialized microscope.

The bright pink fluorescence of the cancer cells allows Dr. Sinclair to remove more of a patient’s brain tumour safely. It’s incredibly precise, and is helping doctors see longer periods between diagnosis and cancer recurrence in brain cancer patients.

It also makes follow-up treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, more effective, which means many patients are living longer overall. And for those with recurrent tumours, the illumination helps to differentiate between new cancer cells and cells that have already been treated with radiation.

And the combined use of FGS and 5-ALA is having a big impact on local research projects as well: scientists can now examine a patient’s MRI and pathology results to compare them with what surgeons are seeing as they operate. This helps researchers develop and optimize targeted treatment plans for patients with highly malignant brain tumours.

The ongoing benefits of this surgical approach have been seen in other countries for many years, but thanks to our donors Ottawa has become one of the first cities in Canada to offer this innovative surgery. With more and more patients experiencing the incredible results of FGS, Dr. Sinclair has big hopes that the 5-ALA drug will one day be funded by the province.

Thank you to all who have supported Dr. Sinclair’s work, for making it possible for local patients to receive such life-changing care!

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